8th- 14th September
I’m six months into my teaching contract in Seoul, and I’ve finally had the chance to see the artistic talents of my school’s art teacher, Im So Young. Her exhibition, ‘Make Beauty II,‘ at Young Art Gallery prove that her talents far surpass keeping excitable kindergarten classes armed with paints under control, which I find admirable enough.
Her work deals with the subject of plastic surgery and desire for beauty which she feels has always been intrinsic to human nature. This seems particularly apt in a country where so much importance is placed on appearances and a relatively high proportion of the female population have undergone some kind of surgery.
A photographic self portrait of Im with an extremely uncomfortable looking, swollen, post nose-job face, provides a starting point for her exhibition, which is predominantly made up of numerous casts of hollow figures, taken from the same body, formed from a smooth, white pulp. Bodies in various positions and in various stages of completion (some have no heads, arms, hands, legs, feet, lower torsos, or a combination of such) sit, stand and lean around the gallery. One even leans a hand against the gallery window and peers down onto passers by. All are hollow casts and have been assembled in noticeable sections. For example, the lower leg has been cast separately from the upper leg and so on. Each fragmented figure seems deep in thought, considering the facts of their construction.
In ‘Make Beauty- Face,’ (2009), the viewer is confronted with 22 identical, expressionless, unblemished face casts. They remain rough around the edges as if they are waiting in a production line to be completed and fitted to other identikit body components. The emphasis on the front section of the head in this piece, re-iterates the importance of ‘face’ in society.
The beautiful, life-like figures bear an unavoidable resemblance to Grecian marbles. However, there are two integral differences. The first is the materials. Although these casts are not flimsy, they definitely will not resist the ravages of time like marble, reflecting the transient nature of beauty. Secondly, the viewer is not faced with voluptuous Roman beauties but petite frames, arguably the most desirable to today’s woman, reflecting the way in which concepts of beauty change with time and place. Just as the Greeks chiseled away obsessively at the marble to convey perfect forms, Im has used a painstaking and time consuming four stage casting process to produce these works. Looking this good doesn’t come easy!
This exhibition was on for a regrettably short period of time. However, Im’s work will feature in a group show in November. Theme: masks. I’m certainly looking forward to another helping of both beautiful and thought provoking works concerning the construction of beauty in our narcissistic society. Now, pass me my compact.